President Obama today accepted the retirement of the general in command of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, taking Marine Gen. John Allen out of the running to be the supreme allied commander in Europe.
Allen, who was the longest serving commander of the NATO coalition in Afghanistan with a tenure of 19 months, said he wants to focus on caring for his ill wife, Kathy. The 59-year-old general was cleared of wrongdoing last month in a Pentagon investigation of flirty emails he exchanged with Jill Kelley, the recipient of threatening emails from Gen. David Petraeus’ mistress Paula Broadwell.
“Today, I met with General John Allen and accepted his request to retire from the military so that he can address health issues within his family. I told General Allen that he has my deep, personal appreciation for his extraordinary service over the last 19 months in Afghanistan, as well as his decades of service in the United States Marine Corps,” Obama said in a statement. “General Allen presided over the significant growth in the size and capability of Afghan National Security Forces, the further degradation of al Qaeda and their extremist allies, and the ongoing transition to Afghan security responsibility across the country. He worked tirelessly to strengthen our coalition through his leadership of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), and to improve our relations with the Afghan government.”
“Above all, he cares deeply for the men and women in uniform who serve our nation – as well as their families – and I am grateful for the sacrifices made by his family in supporting him during his service. John Allen is one of America’s finest military leaders, a true patriot, and a man I have come to respect greatly. I wish him and his family the very best as they begin this new chapter, and we will carry forward the extraordinary work that General Allen led in Afghanistan.”
This makes Allen the fourth Afghanistan commander to go under Obama.
Gen. David McKiernan, who began commanding forces in Afghanistan in June 2008, was forced out by Obama a year before his term was up. The reason given for McKiernan’s requested resignation was the new president’s desire to switch to a “counterinsurgency” strategy instead of conventional warfare. McKiernan retired after this rare ouster of a wartime commander.
The next guy, Gen. Stan McChrystal, lasted only a year as well. The leader of the troop surge stayed from June 2009 to June 2010, when he was forced to resign after members of his staff made disparaging comments about Obama and other administration officials in a Rolling Stone article (remember “Bite Me” Biden?). The magazine now touts its archive story as the profile “that changed history.”
Next was Petraeus, who was asked to be demoted as head of U.S. Central Command to take over for McChrystal but left Afghanistan after a year to become CIA director.
Gen. Joseph Dunford, assistant commandant of the Marine Corps, was nominated by Obama to succeed Allen in Afghanistan when it seemed assured that Allen would take control of the European Command.
Last month, Allen gave a progress report to Obama, who has been eager for Afghanistan withdrawal, that recommended keeping either 6,000, 10,000 or 20,000 troops there after 2014, with the lowest number carrying the highest risk of mission failure.